Berlin emergency response officials say they feel very fortunate that the accident involving Amtrak train 490, traveling from New Haven to Springfield, this morning was not more serious.
At 9:40 this morning, Berlin police received a call for assistance after the Amtrak train struck a tree trimming truck and trailer that were at rest on a railroad crossing on Norton Lane in Berlin.
Fire Chief Jim Simons, of the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department, says the driver of the truck and four of the 45 passengers of the train, were transported to area hospitals with non- life threatening.
One passenger told Fox Connecticut he was afraid the train was going to tip over, because it was rocking back and forth after it hit the truck. Another passenger indicated it took the train quite some distance to come to a complete stop. Amtrak says trains traveling through this rural location are permitted to be traveling at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.
“It got hit by a train going 70 miles an hour,” said Simons. “Part of the truck or the trailer is embedded in the front of the train.”
Simons confirmed the train partially derailed after it hit the tree trimming truck, which was in the area performing contract work for Northeast Utilities, which declined comment. Trees, Inc., which is based in Houston, TX, also declined comment.
The tracks were reopened just after 4pm. Amtrak says as many as 8 scheduled trains had to be cancelled during the closure. However, Amtrak provided bus transportation to passengers who still needed to get to their destination.
While Amtrak has not yet confirmed how fast the train was traveling at the point of impact, Berlin police chief Paul Fitzgerald said it was traveling at a high rate of speed because it is a roll area.
Fitzgerald confirmed that the train derailed after it hit the tree trimming truck, which is owned and operated by Trees, Inc. The crew of five tree trimmers was performing contract work.
A portion of the truck was embedded in the front of the locomotive and caught fire. Fitzgerald said the fire was not extinguished for approximately 35 to 40 minutes because their number one priority was removing passengers from the truck and the train as quickly as possible.
The crossing at which the accident occurred is used by only one resident at the end of Norton Road. Fitzgerald estimated there was a crew of 40 emergency response personnel on scene.
Michael Mohammadi, who said he was a passenger on the train posted pictures on Instagram:
A Hartford Courant report is included.
Check back for details as they develop.